Friday, February 28, 2014

Street Vendor and the State

Step out the terminus railway station - Sealdah and you find your self standing in front of one of the biggest taxi stands with men socked in sweat shouting Howrah Howrah!!! The hot and humid air coming from the swampy delta and sea nearby, makes you utterly uncomfortable and believe me you would want to tear off your shirt and run for a near by cool water pond, but wait you can't do that so keep walking.

Coming out of the taxi stand you will be stunned to see the crisscross flyovers and a city of black and yellow taxis, buses and tram, with no sight of any permanent settlement.(which reminds you of the song "ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan ye hai Bombay, ye hai Bombay, ye hai Bombay meri jaan" but you wont be mistaken for the Bengali script will keep remind you that you happen to be standing on a different side of India that just happens to be a bit similar to the city for which the song was penned down).  The city lives under the highway, i must say. And who are these people? Street vendor. What are they selling? Well, think of cheap decoratives, cell phones, Chinese goods, lamps, CDs, DVDs, posters, milk shakes, sweets, fruits, etc spread along the sides of the broad roads from one end to another, from north to south, from east to west. Walk and walk and walk and still it seems the city never begins to show its other face.

By the night the archaic buildings become hotels and and who knows what business goes on inside those walls and dark rooms. And more importantly where does the city goes in the night? Where do those people sleep?

Well, my friends do not be bothered we have more important things to discuss than a bunch of invalids. Yes, invalids they are, for they make our cities look dirty, they are involved in crimes such as rapes, they do not pay the taxes and they do not have any identity. Is it so?

The concerns revolving around these poor people have made many civil society activists raise these issues to the Centre. The National Commission of Safaai Karmachai have been asking for addressal of their demands for long.

The centre came up with a National Policy on Urban Street Vendors in 2009 (the links of the same is attached below). The policy recognises the need of regularising street vending in cities. There are on an average 2 million Street Vendors in each city in India. The centre realises the harassment at the hands of police and local mafias that these poor people face in absence of any mechanism to address their plight. The Ho'nable Supreme Court had in 1989 drawn attention towards the Article19 (g)of the Constitution and the need to properly regulate street vendors.

Recently the Parliament of India passed a much awaited The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill. The Bill has several commendable provisions. The Bill seeks to constitute a  Town Vending Committee (TVC). The TVC would perform various functions such as demarcation non-vending zones, limiting vendors to a maximum of 2.5% of total city's population, providing ID cards, co-ordinate with local authorities in urban planning and being and interface with the police for the street vendors. The Bill also provides for a  grievance redressal committee this will help bringing justice to the street vendors in case of harassment. Preference is give to the marginalised sections: Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), minorities, women and disabled persons.

Street vending gives an informal source of earning to the numerous unemployed men and women in India and the Bill will certain be a step towards regularization of the same. The successful implementation of the Act will call for efficient establishment of mechanism suggested in the Act on grass root level. Also, the municipal subjects fall under the State list, so concerns are being raised about the possible centre-state friction that can come up.

With time, we can hope that the myriad problems faced by our fellow country men who have by far been marginalized and left to live on the side walks of our mega cities, will be properly addressed.


Loneliness in Bengal for a Hindi speaker may not be an exception
Yes!you guessed it right, its Salt Lake City, in front of DLF buildings 

(Dedicated to 15th June 2010 - the day I kept my step for the first time(technically, second time but I feel it was never so intimate as this time) on the literary soil of West Bengal to be only stunned by the abject poverty and plight of innumerable men and women. The land of Tagore, Stayajit Ray, Eden Garden, Park Street, Victoria Palace, Writer's Building.....and what not... I stood silent.)

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